Page:Marietta, or the Two Students.djvu/42

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MARIETTA, OR

flight which terminated in the cellar. The light was extinguished by the fall, and they were in perfect darkness. Neither of the parties escaped unhurt, except the corpse, which, upon examination, bad not sustained the slightest injury. Despite the aches and bruises, they laughed heartily at their ludicrous mishap.

"Are you much hurt," enquired the student of the Dr. in a voice hoarse with laughter, stretching his arms about in every direction for the lamp.

"Not seriously. But I am pained to say that the subject is stark dead," groaned the Dr., with difficulty restraining his risibles sufficiently to enable him to speak, and without attempting to move.

"How did you happen to fall?"

"In the most natural manner in the world. Being incumbered with our mutual friend, and endeavoring to keep pace with you, I lost my footing." Is there anything very remarkable in that? Pray how did you fall," continued the man of physic, in a significant tone.

"Because I could do nothing else. Ah! I have found the lamp. How fortunate. I have matches in my pocket; you are both langhing, are you?"

"No; I laugh, and the dead gentleman grins. He takes things with more composure than either of us. An impurturbable fellow this. Nothing excitable in his composition, although he came down stairs as quick as 1 did; yet I must confess, in justice to him, that I did my best."

"No doubt of it," said Levator, laconically, rubbing alternately his knees, elbow and head.

The lamp was now relighted. With considerable ado the student mounted the stairs to see what plight the Dr. was in, as well as the subject. He found them stretched out at length, close together, apparently on the most friendly and equitable terms. No serious damage was done, and gathering himself up, the Dr. again took charge of his burden, and with some little difficulty, on account of his bruises, bore it to the cellar, followed by the student, who sagely concluded in this instance that it would be more prudent to follow than to lead.

Proceeding to one corner of the cellar Levator removed a large flat stone, which exposed to view a drain. Into this, the Dr. thrust the body. Putting the slab in its former position, they ascended again to the discecting room, satisfied that the subject was properly secreted.

The table on which it recently lay, was instantly loaded with books, while every vestage of their recent employment was carefully obliterated. Having done this, and renewing the fire in the grate, with each a book, they seated themselves and awaited the result.

Presently the tread of several feet was heard upon the stairs, and the constable, followed by two other persons, entered the room.

The Dr. and Levator affected the greatest surprise at this intrusion.

"Gentlemen," said the former, "to what do we owe the honor of this visit."

"I learn," said the constable, with a dignity becoming a judge, "that you have in your possession a dead body, which you most sacriligiously dragged from its place of sepulture. I have come," said he, pompously, "as an enforcer, and representative of justice, to recover the dishonored remains, and arrest you. Men, seize the ruffians."

"Listen," said the Dr., sternly, "you are oversteping the bounds of your authority. You are taking for granted, what remains to be proved. You must find the body, and then it is theirs in whose possession you find it to show how and where they procured it."

"I know my duty, sir," said the magistrate in a severe and consequential tone. "You are my prisoners. Resistance will be useless. Where are the handcuffs?" he continued in a solemn manner, turning authoratatively to his companions. "Seize the sacrilegious monsters."

The part the self-important magistrate was acting with such imputurballe gravity, was too ludicrous to be regarded with calmness, and both the Dr. and the student laughed without restraint. This put the enforcer of the law in a towering passion. So he swore by the authority invested in him, that such temerity and insolence should not go go unpunished. It was a flagrant setting at defiance of the law, whose minister he had the honor to be. Laughing in such a presence was equivalent to "contempt of court," and should be punished the same as that grave offence. He was shocked at such an exhibition